Nobody really knows why peregrine falcons returned to downtown Salt Lake this year. However, tall urban buildings are also very similar to the cliffs peregrine falcons traditionally nest at in the wild, Norvell explained.

“In many ways, this is an urban canyon setting and it’s really kind of familiar to peregrine,” he said. “It has a lot of elements it looks for in a good nesting spot. It’s high-towering cliffs with vertical faces. That means there’s not going to be a million predators coming in the deprive the nest and it has a good source of prey nearby — there’s all sorts of pigeons downtown and other birds.”

The largest difference between urban and natural settings is any possible disturbances. Norvell said the birds typically don’t like disturbance and there are people and vehicles downtown that can provide that.

The nestlings begin as “white puffballs” and become near adult-size birds with pin-feathers within a few weeks, Norvell added. The birds typically take their first flight about a month after they are hatched.

Peregrine falcons are also notoriously vicious in protecting their nests. However, since the nest is high above where most people would be downtown, both the birds and people should be OK.

“Most of us on the ground, we can just watch this incredible wild aerial predator — it’s one of the greatest symbols of wild birds — in the city,” Norvell said. “It’s also a great success story since these birds have been coming back from population depression from DDT (a compound once used in insecticides) for many years. It’s really great to have this interface of wild creatures occupying our cityscapes.”

Carter Williams, KSL.com
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